Terry Grimley looks at a pioneering exhibition which explores the links between photography and textiles...
One of the earliest experimental subjects chosen by photography pioneer William Fox Talbot was a piece of Nottingham lace, so the connection between photography and textiles could be said to go back a long way.
Much more recently Marlene Little, who runs several courses in textiles at the University of Central England and uses photography in her own work, began to notice the two media were becoming increasingly linked in the work of contemporary artists and designers.
What's more, as an Australian who regularly visited home, she could see that this was a global trend.
The eventual result of these observations was Depth of Field, an exhibition subtitled "conversations between photography and textiles" which has just opened at MAC and will tour to Poole, Nottinghamshire and Derby.
Marlene Little describes the exhibition as "not a survey, but an idiosyncratic response to what's been going on."
She adds: "It was very important that I had some very established people, names that people in photography or textiles would recognise.
"But it was also important to have some emerging artists, so there are some I found at the Royal College of Art degree show. I think it's a particularly rich exhibition because of that."
In exploring the varied ways in which textiles and photography have met in the work of 15 artists working in Britain and Australasia, the exhibition breaks new ground. But Marlene Little initially found this difficult to believe.
"A lot of work is being done in this area, and I kept thinking it had to have been done, but as I kept looking there wasn't anything. There hadn't been an exhibition that had drawn together this particular theme. We're dealing with two areas that are ubiquitous. Textiles are so much around us all the time that it's easy to overlook their importance."
The last point might be taken as the theme of Mary Maclean's photo-graphs. She has toured Britain's chintzy guesthouses, taking closeups of bedspreads or views of sub-urban surroundings through lace curtains. These black and white images are printed directly on to aluminium, creating the rich metallic look of engravings.
Marcus Bunyan's giant and richly coloured photographs obviously have something to do with textiles, but you probably wouldn't guess that these are close-ups of 1940s ties from the artist's collection.
Bunyan has an interesting history, having trained as a concert pianist at the Royal College of Music before moving to Australia, where he is now a senior lecturer in photography at Charles Sturt University, New South Wales.
In old Wales, Heledd Jones is campaigning on behalf of the national language and culture in textile pieces which seamlessly blend traditional hand stitching with technically advanced methods like digital printing and laser cutting to produce rich pictorial imagery.
Marc Wayland produces giant digital portraits on double layers of textile which vibrate visually, and Suzanne Hale's eyewatering photographs show how textiles can relate intimately with the body by stitching through skin.
Birmingham artist Bharti Parmar pursues her themes of heritage and identity through photographs of Victorian cameos.
There are some photo-booth studies for the giant banner which draped the London BBC building by Liz Sidereal, whose images of draped curtains are etched on to the windows of Birmingham Hippodrome's foyer.
As fate would have it, Marlene Little's contribution to the exhibition turned out to be intensely personal.
It consists of photographs of her mother's deathbed in a palliative care home, where a quilted blanket her mother made adds a personalised note to the institutional surroundings.
* Depth of Field is at MAC, Cannon Hill Park, until March 19 (Sun-Fri 12noon-7pm, Sat 12noon-6pm; admission free). ..SUPL: